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When I was a pastor in New York City, I once pushed this idea of holy space to its limit. On an early morning, my wife, Gail, and I hosted four city bus drivers for breakfast in our apartment. We'd met each of them in the course of using public transportation each day and became aware that they were Christ-followers. As we ate, one of our guests commented on my work as a pastor and how much more exciting that must be in contrast to his perception of his ("boring, stressful, and occasionally dangerous") bus-driving work.

His observation could not go unchallenged.

"I have a thought for you that might spiff up your view of your jobs," I said to the four. "Why don't you start up your buses each morning and, while the engine is warming, walk down the aisle of the bus and shout, 'In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, I declare this bus to be a sanctuary where passengers will experience something of the love of Christ through me.' You can be a pastor in your own sanctuary."

I suggested that a bus (like a chapel, an arena, and a mountain hut) could be consecrated, "made holy," for higher purposes than just public transport. And I added that any job can be elevated into a form of pastoral Christ-serving if we start the day in such a way. I concluded, "See if Jesus honors your daily effort."

One of the drivers muttered, "I supposed we could try that."

In the weeks that followed, Gail and I would occasionally get on a bus operated by one of the four drivers. We'd quietly say—hoping that no one else would hear—"are you driving a bus or a sanctuary today?" Always, they'd answer, "It's a sanctuary, man, a sanctuary." Sometimes one of them would say when they saw either of us stepping on the bus, "Welcome to my sanctuary."

A few months later, one of the four drivers said he wanted a word with me.

"This sanctuary thing," he told me, "has changed my day. Yesterday, a guy got on the bus, and he began to curse at me when I wouldn't let him off at a corner where it's not legal to stop. Know something? There was a day when I would have invited someone like him to step off the bus and discuss things with our fists. But I stayed quiet, and when I finally let him off at the right place, I said, "Have a nice day, sir; glad you were aboard."

When I affirmed the driver for his patience, he said, "Oh, it's not really that difficult when you're driving a sanctuary instead of a bus."

Having told this story about our bus driver friends many times, I now have people who tell me that they've learned to declare their offices, their classrooms, their operating rooms into sanctuaries.

This morning I read once again (Mark 1) where Jesus, after a busy day, got up early the next morning and went off to "a solitary place where he prayed." I think Jesus would have thought of that place—quiet, beautiful, bereft of crowds—as a sanctuary.

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Gordon MacDonald is chancellor of Denver Seminary and editor-at-large for Leadership Journal. He is author of numerous books, including Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence.

Posted: December 23, 2011

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Jun Gerra

December 28, 2011  8:11am

I find the article enlightening.Wherever the presence of God is, its a holy place.Our God is an omnipresent God but its us the believers of the Lord Jesus, the light bearers of this world that carries also the presence of God even to the darkest place of this world.That place becomes a sanctuary of God bringing His very presence and grace into that place.It takes more than the eyes to appreciate the beauty that God has made.Yes even the most mundane place where our feet takes us becomes a sanctuary of Gods presence when we allow God's love to manifest.When we bring God's love to the hopeless,discouraged,downtrodden, the sick and lost people that very place where these people abound becomes God's sanctuary.I really hope and pray that we will see with our spiritual eyes the beauty of God even in the very dark alleys of our paths and transform this into God's very sanctuary where His love and grace abounds.

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Krista Austin

December 28, 2011  8:08am

I, too, remember Urbana. I still have a fondness for Romans because of John Stott's meaty Bible teaching. Then there was the midnight communion service with Billy Graham issuing a challenge to serve the Lord full-time. It wasn't until years later that I realized serving Him full-time didn't have to mean overseas as a missionary. It's a little like having a sanctuary that isn't confined to a church building. Emmanuel, God with...me.

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Earl G

December 28, 2011  7:09am

I have just had a walk (several blocks). I always enjoy the quietness and the liitle distractions to be with my Lord. Having read this article, I declare that my sanctaury is a mobile one as I experience the presence of my Creator as I walk and welcome the new morning! Thanks for this insightful article!

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Elizabeth Havill

December 27, 2011  1:35pm

I find Gordon MacDonalds articles so fresh and inspiring! What a nice thought about making every place we are a "Santuary." Besides being one myself where the Lord Jesus can dwell! And it's a choice we make each day! What a profound difference we could make in the lives of those who cross our paths, if we kept this thought foremost in our minds and hearts. May God grant this in the year before us for His Dear Name's sake!

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